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Choosing a Safe Bed for your Newborn Baby

Choosing a Safe Bed for your Newborn Baby

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you have your first baby on the way. Such an exciting and wonderful time, and filled with all the decisions about what you need to buy for your beautiful nursery.

At The Sleep Store, you’ll find our focus is not on an insta-worthy nursery or the cute cot sets with matching pillows and bumpers. Our focus is on safe sleep options and helping parents to choose a safe sleep option for their baby. It may surprise and horrify you that newborn baby beds in New Zealand are almost completely unregulated, without retailers required to meet any safety standards.

While cots have a mandatory standard and travel cots have a voluntary safety standard in NZ, the beds that are commonly used for newborn babies in New Zealand have NO safety requirements. As a parent to be, we urge you to be informed and shop for your newborn bed from a retailer focused on safety rather than fashion or cuteness. In addition to the risk of suffocation, there are wider risks of SIDS/SUDI with babies 0-6 months. So it is even more important that a safe sleep space is chosen for babies for ALL sleeps. Often the occasional or accidental sleeping places are the ones that result in tragedy.

What do we consider safe for newborns?

Beds that achieve all the safe sleep guidelines are safest for newborns. So this means choosing beds that meet the following:

  • Have a firm sleeping surface

  • Babies have their own sleep space

  • The mattress is well fitting with no gaps

  • There are no padded or cushioned items, so no duvets, quilts, bumpers or pillows near baby.

  • If baby’s face is up against the side of the bed, it does not pose a suffocation risk. So this generally means a firm, breathable surface, such as cot slats, the cotton or mesh side of a bassinet or the firm surface of a moses basket, wahakura or pepi-pod.

What beds are safest for newborns

The safest option for babies is a bed that meets a recognised safety standard. Safety standards in New Zealand are inadequate and currently limited to the AU/NZ 2172:2003 safety standard for household cots. So you may want to research safety standards from other countries such as the bassinet and bedside bassinet standard from the USA or the Bassinets, Moses Baskets and Carry Cot standard from the UK.

So the safest option in NZ (based on current NZ standards/regulations) are:

  • Household Cots. Must meet the AU/NZ 2172:2003 safety standard for household cots. We strongly recommend you choose a FIXED Side as these are safe and durable. Many countries overseas have now banned Drop Side cots as these can pose an entrapment hazard and the drop mechanism can fail, especially if you plan to use the cot over a number of years with several children.

International standards exist for the following but not in NZ, so look for overseas certification.:

  • Bassinets – with breathable or solid sides, that meet either UK, EU or USA standards. Also, there is good info on safety from Consumer NZ though unfortunately you need to be a member to read it!

  • Moses Basket – either plain or with UNPADDED fabric liner - UK standard.

  • Bedside bassinets / co-sleepers, eg Arms Reach - USA standard. We recommend the Arms Reach brand.

What other NZ options exist that can be used for bed-sharing:

The following are considered safe in New Zealand as they have been developed by safe sleep experts and SIDS/SUDI prevention experts. Research is promising that these are safe but there is no independent safety testing at this stage.

  • Wahakura – woven flax bed

  • Pepi Pod

Another option to consider:

Wahakura are hard to come by and a lot of parents are resistant to the plastic sides of the Pepi Pod. So we have sourced a commercially available option with solid construction and mesh sides that is designed for use in parents' beds in the same way as a Pepi Pod. Ensure you are ALSO meeting all safe bed-sharing guidelines such as keeping pillows and bedding away from the By Your Side Sleeper.

Use caution with these options - not considered safe sleep options by safe sleep advocates

Bed-sharing - ENSURE YOU CAREFULLY RESEARCH BED-SHARING GUIDELINES & ENSURE YOU CAN FOLLOW VERY CLOSELY. Basically, this means no adult bedding or pillows are anywhere near baby, that adults haven’t been smoking, drinking or taking drugs, your baby is not prem or very small, you are breastfeeding and that mum didn’t smoke during pregnancy. Babies should not be swaddled if bed-sharing and should sleep in a suitable sleepsuit or sleeping bag so no bedding is needed. Also organise your bed so that you make sure your baby cannot fall out of bed or become trapped between the mattress and wall and never leave your baby alone in the bed, as even very young babies can wriggle into a dangerous position.

Natures Sway Hammocks – These do not meet the usual guidelines for a safe sleep space as they have a slim, slightly soft wool mattress and are not completely flat. However, they are very effective at keeping babies safely on their back which is a very important aspect of safe sleep and SIDS prevention. Parents can also choose to use the mattress stiffener to make the hammock flatter. We are comfortable including this in our list due to independent academic research conducted at Auckland University which showed the hammocks have very good airflow for babies even with the slightly softer mattress and the slightly curved base.  

icon Read further information on bed-sharing safety advice from Unicef

icon Read our article on co-sleeping and bed-sharing

icon Read the La Leche Leage information

What do we consider UNSAFE for newborn sleep

Safe Sleep experts do not consider any of the following options safe for sleeping - both day sleep and night sleep. This is because, despite best intentions or manufacturer instructions, parents cannot 100% supervise their babies while sleeping.

Even if you intend to use something when you are supervising your baby, you may need to leave the room, go to the bathroom, get called away by the phone or door and of course fall asleep yourself, both day and night.

  • Any type of padded and soft sleep nests, regardless of what they are made from.

  • Any padded cot bumpers (breathable mesh are OK provided they are securely attached).

  • Any cot pillows for under 18 months

  • Any form of sleep wedge or cushioned sleep positioner

  • Any pillows that claim to prevent or treat flat heads - pillows are never recommended as safe for babies.

  • Any bassinets or moses baskets that are padded, in the same way that cot bumpers are padded - ask yourself if baby’s face is up against the side, can they easily breathe?

  • In addition, the use of hats, bonnets, headbands and any form of dummy clips and teething necklaces should never be used for sleep.

Why don’t we sell baby sleep nests or ‘loungers’?

While we could sell thousands of these 'fashionable' nests, we consider the safety of babies far more important than profit or trends.

We are in agreement with safe sleep experts, many midwives, medical professionals, The Lullaby Trust from the UK and the American Academy of Pediatrics that nests and padded beds for babies pose a suffocation risk.

These beds fail on almost all safe sleep guidelines for newborns. They are like sleeping your baby IN A PILLOW. They put a padded cushion AROUND your baby’s face and head. They may also have a padded base. Safe sleep means a firm base and no pillows for babies!

Tragically baby Zara in Australia died in 2016 in a padded bed of similar construction to those being sold in NZ today and despite our emails to government agencies since 2017 there has still been no movement on regulating these or addressing questions around false advertising.

We will review our stance on these nests once the Minister of Consumer Affairs addresses our concerns.

icon Read the safety advice from The Lullaby Trust

icon Read concerns about nests from Health Canada

But aren’t nests a safer way to bed-share?

If you choose to bed-share, then review our article on co-sleeping and bed-sharing, where we link to information on how to reduce the risk of bed-sharing. We don't recommend bed-sharing nor will we advise it is safe. BUT we can say that sleeping your baby in a padded nest has not in any way been shown to make bed-sharing 'safe', despite the claims of retailers of these products.

We think this sales technique from some nest brands claiming that nests make bed-sharing safe is both misleading and unsafe. It feels that they are playing on new parents wanting to find a safe way to comfort their baby during the night and that SIDS prevention advise a separate sleep space for baby. But a padded, cushioned, pillow-like nest is still a padded, pillow-like nest and poses a suffocation risk regardless of whether it is separate.

Co-sleeping with your baby in a bedside bassinet next to your bed is safest. Or choose one of the other options from above that offer your baby a firm, flat surface in their own space and without loose bedding, pillows or a pillow-like surrounding.

But don’t nest brands cover safe sleep info in their instructions?

Well…..some brands and products try to get around the fact that these beds go against all safe sleep guidelines by claiming they are for lounging, rest, play, transitioning between places....

They advise or recommend they are not for unsupervised sleep or to only use supervised. However, the very nature of sleep is that it will often be unsupervised. No-one stays awake all night ‘supervising’ their sleeping baby and no-one sits watching their baby ‘supervising’ them for every minute, of every nap, during the day.

They say they are not for bedsharing or claim that they are a safer way for bedsharing, while at the same time stating they are only for supervised sleep.

Yet many photos on these brands website and social media show babies sleeping. Yes, they may be careful to not publish their own photos of babies sleeping but they re-post or allow tagged photos showing babies sleeping in these nests.

Parents buy nests for sleeping. They also choose to use them in unsafe ways such as wedging nests into cots, bassinets and moses baskets. They use them in ‘cute’ photos with hats on while wedged into a nest.

So if you need to say a product is not for unsupervised sleep, why are you promoting it using photos of sleeping babies?

But don’t nests meet all the safety standards?

ABSOLUTELY NOT, because there are NO safety standards in New Zealand than apply to newborn beds generally and certainly none that cover baby nests.

Many manufacturers or retailers will claim that their nests are ‘certified for sleep’ or that they meet particular safety standards. But there are no certifications for sleep spaces and the claims about standards are misleading at best and outright lies at worst.

For example, one brand in NZ claims their nests meet safety standard AS/ NZS ISO 8124/Pt.1/2002 but this standard has nothing to do with beds. It is a toy safety standard!

Another brand references standard NZ 8811.1:2013, the voluntary standard that covers the firmness of sleep surfaces. While firm sleep surfaces are important for safe sleep, this is completely outweighed by the suffocation risk of soft padded sides next to your baby's face.

So our advice is...

So our advice is to take your time and think first about the safety of your newborn while they are sleeping.

Be realistic about the fact that you can't supervise all sleeps and certainly can't supervise your baby while YOU are asleep. Do your research and speak with experts who put the safety of your baby first.

We are here to help if you have any questions and you can have confidence all our newborn beds have been chosen with absolute care and a focus on your baby's safety.